THERE are about 3 million people in the US who believe our planet is flat. Buoyed by social media and increased publicity due to the Netflix documentary Behind the Curve, their numbers are growing. If you do, they are likely to ask: "How confident are you that the Earth is round? We have a better idea than most. For the past year, we have met regularly with our local flat-Earth group.
You may have heard me say this before, but I firmly believe there are few topics more fundamental to study than the workings of our planet. The earth sciences aim to unravel how the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere operate--and how they operate together. It is a science of synthesis. And it's one that needs to move forward, both because of the great service the earth sciences perform for society and the understanding of world-shaping processes that they advance. Now, earth scientists are not always the first researchers you see on TV or in articles about science, even if the topic is plainly within their realm.
December 30, 2016 --At a time when NASA earth scientists are concerned their research may be scuttled by the incoming Trump administration, the space agency's top science official is preaching pragmatism and unity. The names of the two key Trump administration figures who will have the most significant impact on NASA's future -- the new NASA administrator and the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy -- have not been announced. To put that in scientific terms, all the rumor and discussion swirling around the scientific community about NASA's future under a Trump presidency is noise, "not signal," said Thomas Zurbuchen, who took over as the leader of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in October. "You are leaders in your community, please be a source of signal, not a source of noise," Zurbuchen said Dec. 12 during the annual Earth Science Town Hall meeting at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Although it is possible that NASA's Earth Science program "might get somewhat smaller in the new administration, it is not at all obvious to me that is going to happen," said Michael Freilich, NASA Earth Science Division director.
The UK Geological Society has announced the winners of the 2017 Earth Science Week photography competition, 'Our Restless Earth.' The 12 stunning images represent the dynamic processes that have shaped the UK and Ireland over its tectonic history, from ancient volcanic activity to ice age glaciers. The winning images range from limestone erosion at the Gower Peninsula, Wales, to the dramatic landscape of Glencoe – the remains of an ancient super-volcano which was erupting some 420 million years ago. First place has been awarded to Milena Farajewicz for'Three sisters of Glencoe in autumn', Second place is awarded to Emma Smith for'Clifftop bowling overlooking Loch Maree', and third place to Kevin Privett for'Limestone weathering, Gower.' The 12 images will all feature in a 2018 calendar, with the awards to be presented at a London event to launch Earth Science Week on Monday 9 October.
April 13, 2017 --Since the earliest days of space travel, NASA has looked in two directions: out to space and back toward Earth. To a public that only knows NASA as the agency that put men on the moon and rovers on Mars, it may come as a surprise to realize how big a role Earth observations have played in NASA programming, and how much that research has informed the exploration of moons and planets in our solar system and beyond. That connection came into sharp focus on Thursday, when NASA announced the discovery of molecular hydrogen in a plume on Saturn's moon Enceladus – a discovery that would not have been possible without a robust understanding of environmental systems on Earth. Nearly all planetary science and exoplanet research has its roots in Earth science, and much of that research has been gleaned from NASA's Earth science mission, says Marcia McNutt, a geoscientist who has headed the United States Geological Survey, the research journal Science, and the National Academy of Science. "Had the agency not been studying Earth as a planet," she adds, "we would not have gained the proper knowledge and perspective for seeking out the signatures potentially conducive to life on other celestial bodies."